This parish is in the southwest corner of Surrey and is probably best known for its Ponds. Nowadays the parish comprises the two villages of Frensham and Rushmoor with the Common and Ponds between them.
There is evidence that the area has been settled for over 8000 years with Mesolithic pit dwellings found at the foot of the (Devils) Jumps, and Neolithic axes and tools around Spreakley and the Ponds. Hundreds of Bronze Age arrowheads have been discovered, and there are several barrow burial sites at Spreakley, Gong Hill and the Kings Ridge. It is most likely that Frensham and Tilford had a large population 3000 years ago.
Iron Age Celts had settled the area at the time of the Roman invasion of 43 AD. When the Romans left, Surrey was overrun by Saxons. The remains of Saxon weaving huts were discovered at the foot of Firgrove Hill, and dated as about 550 AD. In 688 AD King Caedwalla made a charter granting to the Church 60 hides of land including Frensham, Churt and Farnham. This began the long association of the area with the diocese of Winchester.
A Danish raiding party was defeated in battle by Saxons under King Alfred’s son, Edward, in 893 AD at a site thought to be between Gong Hill, Tilford and Spreakley.
The Great Pond is known to have existed around 1200, and a small area on the eastern side is thought to be very ancient. There are Mesolithic remains on both sides of the Great Pond. The Little Pond, once called Crowsfoot, was built by the orders of Bishop de Ralegh in 1246 and was stocked with fish including bream, pike and carp. Both Ponds (and a third at Stockbridge which was lost when the dam broke in 1910) were regularly fished right up to the early part of the 20th century. The Great Pond also has a role in aviation history, as the very first seaplane was tested and developed there in 1913.
The annals of Waverley Abbey record that the building of St. Mary the Virgin church began in 1239 and that it replaced an earlier church. In 1348 Frensham was devastated by the ‘black plague’; 52 farms were abandoned.
Click here to see the catalogue of the St Mary the Virgin, Frensham, Parish Records (1649 -1978) held at the Surrey History Centre.
Click here to see the catalogue of the St Mary’s, Frensham, Parish Records and Frensham and Dockenfield Civil Parish Records (1839 -1948) held at the Surrey History Centre.
During the civil war the Royalists taxed the people of Frensham and Churt, and the Roundheads pillaged the village and were then billeted here.
In the 17th century Farnham’s wool market and the Weyhill (Andover) hops market brought prosperity to the parish, with local hops being favoured by West of England buyers. But by the 1800s Frensham was a poor and dangerous place, with highwaymen and robbers based in Hindhead and Wrecclesham. In the winter locals relied on catching rabbits for sale to the Army in Aldershot.
Frensham today is very different. Gone are the hop fields and oast houses, usually converted into houses. Only two farms remain, Pierrepont and Pitts, and the increase in private transport has meant the closure of most local shops. Only twenty years ago there were four village shops, two post offices, a butchers, a bank and three garages selling petrol. That is now reduced to two PO/stores. In contrast there is an insatiable demand for houses and land, particularly equestrian. Tourism is also flourishing with the beauty of the Ponds and Frensham Common a magnet for visitors from near and far. Frensham Sailing Club and the Frensham ‘Sponsored (Horse) Ride’ are both known nationally. Frensham Cricket Club has been going strong since 1899, using the beautiful Hollowdene recreation ground, owned and maintained by the Parish Council. The annual Scarecrow Festival, is very successful, attracting young families from all over Surrey and Hampshire.
Frensham originally included the entire area from Shottermill to the Bourne. The settlement at Rushmoor is relatively recent having been largely built in the 20th century. Today much of the parish is open space maintained and protected by the National Trust and similar bodies, helping to preserve its attractive rural aspect and quiet solitude.